Plan 9 from the Demon's Head
Chapter 1: Smart Demon, Foolish Choices


"Mr Drake, prep stands for preparatory. Brentwood Academy is a preparatory institution. It is our function to prepare our students for the rigors of collegiate academia…"

Tim Drake couldn't help thinking if Ra's Al Ghul was somehow crossbred with the Penguin and Hugo Strange, the result still wouldn't be as pompous and affected as Mr. Offred.

"…As such, you are required to complete no fewer than six advanced placement credits your junior year, and nine your senior year, effectively allowing you to matriculate into any institution of higher learning as sophomores. I am not unaware that many of our young scholars view this process as an opportunity to 'party hardy' during their freshman year, however those of serious purpose take full measure of…

It went on and on. Not twelve hours ago, Tim was in danger of being drawn and quartered by coils of mutated ivy – this was worse.

"…Now then, about your essay…"

Finally.

"Mr Offred, all I meant was that 'Groupthink' has come up in all three of my advanced placement courses – History, Speech Communications, and Political Science – and I just thought…"

"If it has only happened once in 10,000 years of recorded history," Mr. Offred read from Tim's paper, "it doesn't belong in a textbook, and if it has they should find a new example."

"I just meant—"

"Mr Drake, Groupthink is a phenomenon when a team of highly accomplished and successful people dedicated to some high purpose, by the very virtue of their abilities and successes, create an atmosphere where no one will speak of perceived weaknesses in a planned course of action – or quite possibly, no one even recognizes those weaknesses. They will not see collectively what any one of them would see individually: that the plan is so ridiculously flawed as to be doomed from the beginning. The textbook example of this is the Bay of Pigs–"

"Yes sir, that's my point. It IS a textbook example. It's in all three of my textbooks, and I just thought it might be helpful if someone would give a different example–"

"The Kennedy administration saw itself as…"

It went on and on.

Mr. Offred repeated the facts of the Bay of Pigs invasion just as the textbooks had. Tim resigned himself to shutting off his brain and parroting these facts back, the gospel according to Harcourt-Brace and Mr. Offred, at the first opportunity to show he now understood. Until then, he'd console himself with thoughts of Ivy's mutant shrubbery climbing through the window, wrapping round Mr. Offred's throat, and pulling him out the window by his necktie.


Selina stood in front of the 49th Street Newsstand with true sympathy in her heart: The Gotham Post, gutter tabloid extraordinaire, had found a new target. After her one-woman show exposed the outrageous lies they'd written about Catwoman, they moved on to this smear campaign against Black Canary. She was allegedly smitten with the Demon Head himself, Ra's Al Ghul. Today's cover pictured "the Cadaver" -as Selina always thought of him- carrying Canary off into the desert, like a Snidely Whiplash version of Valentino's Sheik.

The Post pretended to be a great advocate of female heroes: even running editorials and sidebars about replacing male heroes like Robin with female counterparts like Batgirl or Spoiler! But for all their politically correct posturing, the paper didn't really like the women of the superhero trade. They liked having tits on their front page, Selina reflected, but they missed no opportunity to humiliate and degrade these women whose stories they claimed to tell.

"Black Canary IN LOVE with Ra's Al Ghul. Oh please! Nobody's that blonde."

Then news vendor looked up at her comment, and Selina picked up a Vogue.

The only kernel of truth in the stories about her, she thought as she slid the magazine into her handbag, was that there actually was a thief called Catwoman operating in Gotham City. She couldn't help but wonder what, if anything, was the kernel of truth this preposterous Black Canary story.


Ra's al Ghul was having a bad day. "After a few centuries," he considered, "you develop a perspective mortals who live but a single lifetime can never know. You recognize a bad day when it's happening to you, and THIS is a BAD DAY."

He was in the Detective's city, he had been forced to submit himself to the tender mercies of a Gotham press agent, he had endured those horrible women and their papier-mâché window boxes, he had endured "BeBe" (a miniature poodle of foul disposition who sat on the room service cart eating his lunch), and he now had to endure this picture.

He sat at the desk in the Royal Suite at the Gotham Imperial Hotel, surveying the same cover of the Gotham Post with the same look of distaste that Selina had – though for vastly different reasons. THIS was why the Fair One, his flaxen-haired goddess, refused his love: he was being portrayed as a monster, a diabolical villain! Look at that picture! He looked like the antagonists from the early moving pictures. How could any one as fair and able as Black Canary not be repulsed by this impudent propaganda?

It was this image and the dozens that preceded it that caused him to hire the press agent, Ramona DeSlice… Ramona DeSlice. "Surely," Ra's thought, "even by the standards of American nomenclature, that cannot be a real name. No sentient being would name another living thing Ramona DeSlice…. Then again…" he looked at the poodle with disgust. His own darling daughter had wanted to call this canine curse "Brucie boy" and when he flatly refused, she tried "Beloved." When that was rejected, she began sneaking it treats and calling it "BeBe" until it refused to answer to any other name. Perhaps it was fortunate she never succeeded seducing the Detective, or the mighty Ra's al Ghul might be saddled with an heir called the Belovelette.

Her mother was like that. Cloying. That's why he had to kill her.

But this new passion was another matter, it would not pale in a mere century. Invigorated by his last dip in the Lazarus Pit, he had the raging hormones of a 19-year old. His lieutenants claimed he was not thinking clearly, but they didn't understand – his mind was not clouded, it was exceptionally focused: Black Canary! Whatever it took, he would win her.

And if that meant he must come to the Detective's city and be photographed with a dog and appear on talk shows at the behest of a press agent, so be it. He would repair his demonic image and he would win the lady fair.

She had come into his life the very day he last emerged from the Pit. She was in his territory, asking questions of the peasants. He had her brought before him, and learned that her investigation had nothing to do with his operations. She was on the trail of Lin Phat, an Asian racketeer of no consequence. As her interests did not conflict with his, he invited her to stay and enjoy his hospitality, to at least dine with him before she left. This was the way of civilized beings, but the heroes never understood that. She bristled, as they all do, as if he'd insulted her. It was quite – stirring.

It had been decades since he'd felt this way. She was so unattainable, so disdainful. He tried all of his best bits, wrote her sonnets, promised her the world. Literally. Catherine the Great really went for that. But the Fair Canary, alas, called him…


..: a creepy megalomaniacal slime bucket :..

The words scrolled up on the OraCom's text screen. It was a relatively new channel, created for Batgirl's limited spoken vocabulary, but used more and more by the other heroines as a private IM where they could silently comment on, among other things, the men on the 'Com without their knowing. Barbara typed back:

ROFL, c'mon dinah, let it out, what do you really think of him

The only response was the emoticon of a smiley face sticking out it's tongue. Barbara continued her teasing.

you saw him on The View today didn't you? hocking his book

..: My Previous Lives and Loves – Gag Me!

Introduction by Shirley McLane

What was the thing making flowerboxes?

They always do that, make the guests do some craft or cooking thing Seriuosly Dinah, don't you feel just a LITTLE different now that you've seen him up to his elbows in papier-mâché?

Nightwing read over Barbara's shoulder as she chatted with Black Canary, oblivious to his presence. He'd been taught to approach unseen and unheard, taught by the very best. Tonight he was going to put that skill to good use surprising Babs with a bouquet of roses, an order from her favorite takeout, and a small gold locket which Alfred recommended, Bruce confirmed, and Selina helped pick out, as an appropriate gift to signal his intention to propose at some later date. He took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak… when a new line of text appeared on the screen:

No, I still pretty much feel repulsed – you know he's not even talking roll in the hay, he wants MARRIAGE can you believe it, 'til death do us part with a guy that's 800 years old if he's a day and shows no sign of slowing down.

It's that strict 12th century upbringing I expect.

I think it's because the heir needs to be legitimate – WHY AM I DISCUSSING THIS?

'cause he looked so adorable with that dog licking paste off his beard

BARBARA THIS ISN'T FUNNY – WHY ARE YOU TURNING THIS INTO A JOKE

Dinah! Chill! What ELSE am I supposed to do with it? It's too silly to take seriously – You and Ra's! It's a punch line. Besides, what with everybody assuming Dickey-the-Dick and I are a foregone conclusion, I've got to get my jollies from other people's love lives.

Nightwing silently gathered up his flowers, takeout, and the jewelry box containing the locket, and left the apartment in crushed silence.


...to be continued...